Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan and My Non-Muslim Family

By Amal Stapley

Living with your non-Muslim family as a new Muslim poses many different challenges. In my experience, fasting Ramadan is one of the biggest challenges.

Ramadan Challenges

The challenges, of course, vary from family to family, but can be particularly challenging if they aren’t open to your new-found faith or to certain aspects of it.

As in any household, there are always compromises to be made, but when the family members have different beliefs and ways of life, the balance is a very fine one that can easily be tipped one way or the other. It sometimes feels as if you are walking on a bit of a tightrope trying to please everyone, and yet keep true to Islam.

During most of the year, minor adjustments and compromises can be made, as a new Muslim tries to keep within the bounds set by Allah, but still maintaining the family ties. The timing of activities, such as prayer, can be adjusted to fit into the family routine. Islamic activities can happen outside the house, and friends not invited round to avoid arguments and clashes.

But when it comes to the fast of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, it’s not as easy to make compromises, as the timings for fasting are strictly prescribed and the prohibitions are absolute (other than due to the lawful exceptions). Also, Allah’s commands have to take priority over family wishes:

But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness… (Luqman 31:15)

So, how can you manage to do that in Ramadan? It’s impossible to give one standard answer to that question. However, here are some ideas that I have tried while living with my family or that others have tried.

Show Understanding for Their Point of View

It can be very easy in the early flushes of your new faith to be so enthusiastic about it that you forget how strange some of the rituals of Islam seem to other people. They don’t have the same belief as you and therefore find it very difficult to understand why you have to fast for a whole month and be so strict about it. They can’t understand your motivation for doing it and everything about fasting may seem to clash with their own understandings of life and how it should be lived.

If you are facing this type of challenge, one of the best ways to explain about Ramadan I have found is to research the health benefits of fasting. Although this is not our main motivation for fasting, explaining it from a scientific perspective may help your family accept it better. Booklets like the ‘Ramadan Health Guide’ produced by the National Health Service can be a great help with this, as it’s produced by a trusted scientific organization.

Being Gently Firm

Some of my biggest challenges with my family have been when they have tried to tell me what Allah does or doesn’t want from me or when they have tried to impose their interpretation on me of how I should practice my faith.

Looking back, I can see how my practice of Islam may have been confusing, as over the years, when I have learned more and grown into Islam, I have gradually adopted slightly different practices. This may have made it seem as if it is possible to pick and choose what I practice and make it seem as if I could be persuaded to change what I had planned. But in the end, as I will be the one standing in front of Allah accounting for my life; I will be the one who has to justify my actions based on my best understanding of my faith. So I have therefore had to gently stand firm for what I have understood to be the best thing for me to do and used the ‘broken record’ technique; simply repeating my position and not succumbing to persuasion.

This hasn’t always been easy to do at the time and has resulted in some emotional conversations, but in the end, when it became clear that I was standing firm, it was accepted, even though that may have been done grudgingly. Also, maybe I gained some respect for holding onto my beliefs along the way, even though they weren’t necessarily agreed with.

Drink Plenty and Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet

One of the things that non-Muslims find most difficult to understand is the fact that not only we do not eat during the daylight hours in Ramadan, but we also don’t drink anything. Contemporary medical advice encourages people to drink water regularly to keep hydrated. So, when your parents see you not drinking, they naturally get worried that you are harming yourself.

So, make sure that you do drink plenty during the night, and let them know that you are. Also, make sure to eat a healthy balanced diet and take a short nap if you need to, to show them that you are being responsible about your fasting.

Spend Quality Time with Your Family

If your family normally eats together, it will be strange for them to know that you are in the house and not eating with them. It may be even more uncomfortable for you to sit with them but not eat. The ideal would of course be if they would be willing to change their mealtimes to eat with you, but if that doesn’t happen, there are several things you could do.

You could try to make up for missing mealtimes by finding as much quality time to spend with them at other times during the day as you can. You could help to prepare the dinner and clear away after it or better still, cook meals for them! Look out for other ways that you could show your appreciation for this being a difficult time for them.

Make It Easy for Your Parents

My father used to find Ramadan so stressful that he once suggested that I should move out for the month, so they didn’t have to deal with it. It didn’t actually come to that, but instead I tried to make it easier and more natural by taking as many opportunities as I could to go out and have iftar with friends. Not eating with them on those days made me seem more normal. When I brought back food for them, it also let them know that I was thinking of them while I was out. If you are able to go away for some time in Ramadan, it may also help to relieve some of the stress and maybe going to i`tikaf (retreat) might benefit you all!

Whatever you decide to do, you will need to do it with respect, as you are living in parents’ house and this can be a powerful tool for da`wah.

May Allah help you to find the best way to please Him and also your family!



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Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan in a Non-Muslim Society

Ramadan is a month awaited by Muslims. This month reflects the rituals of faith that strengthen the links between one and Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Muslims celebrate this Holy Month, according to their lifestyle and custom differences. Nonetheless, the rituals of Ramadan are the same among all Muslims in the west and in Islamic countries.

Russia, for example, is not a Muslim country, but the rituals practiced by Muslims in Ramadan are the same, in the sense of meeting at the suhur table, going for prayers in congregation at the mosque, reciting Qur’an in groups, performing the Tarawih (night prayer in Ramadan), etc. These people feel a sense of closeness and religious faith by meeting with other Muslims who are doing the same.

However, when you have a busy schedule, keeping focused and caring about your spiritual deeds is not always easy. It takes steadfastness to focus, good motivation and working smartly to beat interruptions.

Here are some ways to manage your time in Ramadan, and be productive:

1- Do Not Miss Suhur

Suhur (pre-dawn meal in Ramadan) is a Prophetic Sunnah. Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Have suhur, indeed there’s blessing in it”. (Al-Bukhari)

If you work day shifts and get to bed late, make sure that you wake up for suhur. Even a glass of water and some dates will suffice, for Allah will put barakah (blessing) in this. You will get the blessings in sha’ Allah and at the same time the food will give you some power to stay awake during the day.

2- Join Family for Iftar

Being with family especially in Ramadan, is a good thing that makes you feel warm and close to those who love and care about you. But, due to office working hours, your shift may be during the iftar time. Yet, there’s a way out. You can arrange to have iftar with family over the weekend.

What if you can’t arrange that?  You still can have iftar at work with office colleagues.

3- Don’t Be a Glutton!

A lot of people eat too much at iftar, and end up not praying Tarawih, or even breathe! Eating is not forbidden, but eating too much is not approved of. The body and digestive system are badly affected by that. Break up the big meal into small ones that your body can handle easily, and leave you feeling less overwhelmed.

For example: break your fast with dates and water, then pray Maghrib, then have something light like a fruit or vegetable salad, then pray `Isha’. You can have your main dish after prayers. Take small meals consistently with fruit over time; you will not feel tired during Ramadan and at the end of the month, you will be in better health.

4- Pray Tarawih

Praying Tarawih (night prayer in Ramadan) is one of the most spiritual acts in Ramadan. It is preferred to offer it in a mosque, as the prophet said: “Whoever prays Qiyam (night prayer) with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer”. (At-Tirmidhi)

But what if you don’t have a mosque in your city? Or what if the mosque is very far? You can pray with your friends at home, or specify a place and use it as a mosque, just to get the merits of praying in congregation.

5- Feel Ramadan

Unfortunately, a lot of us say: ‘I can’t feel Ramadan’. No, try to feel it and handle this point. So, how do you stay motivated to make the most out of Ramadan when everyone else around you treats Ramadan as a non-important event? Each one of us has a great way out. Just keep making istighfar (asking Allah’s Forgiveness) all the time. It’s an easy thing you can do while you’re working, cooking, driving, etc. The same goes with dhikr (remembrance of Allah).

You can easily motivate others and get yourself motivated too. For example, distribute dates for iftar at office, your colleagues will be happy and will feel that Ramadan is a month of giving. You could also use this moment to tell them about Allah and Islam.

6- A Coin Might Equal a House in Paradise

Almighty Allah says,

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower. (Al-Baqarah 2:261)

The example set by the Allah (glory be to Him) teaches us to be as generous as possible. We are also encouraged to give alms as a way to earn the pleasure of Allah, avert calamities and cure ailments. There was an incident from the recent past regarding a woman who was diagnosed with renal failure. Dialysis stopped showing positive results and she was recommended to undergo a kidney transplant. Another poor woman came to the hospital to donate her kidney, but was crying a lot. They asked her why she was crying. She said she was donating her kidney because she was too poor and couldn’t find any work and her kids were going hungry. The sick woman paid the poor woman the total amount for the kidney without actually taking the kidney. A day after that, when the doctors examined the sick woman, they found her 100% healthy. Subhan Allah!

7- Love Technology?

If you love technology, tune it out and reconnect with Ramadan!

A lot of today’s youth are addicted to technology; they might spend 20 hours per day playing video games or surfing the internet. But Ramadan is to remember Allah (Exalted be He) and share the happiness with your family, friends and community as well.

In Egypt, the youth keep themselves busy with social projects in Ramadan. One such task is called the ‘Ramadan Bag’. Each youth contributes some money and they buy dry rations like rice, sugar, oil etc. Each product is packed and then put into bags, and then distributed to the poor across the country.

8- Do Some Da`wah

One of the most important things each one of us can do in Ramadan as a community is to take advantage of questions from non-Muslims and  do da`wah (call to Islam) about the virtues of fasting in Islam, and how it purifies a person’s soul. Da`wah or calling others to Islam is the best of deeds, because it involves guiding people to the straight path and to that which brings them happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. Almighty Allah says,

And who is better in speech than he who (says: ‘My Lord is Allah (believes in His Oneness),’ and then stands firm (acts upon His Order), and invites (men) to Allah’s (Islamic Monotheism), and does righteous deeds, and says: ‘I am one of the Muslims’. (Fussilat 41:33)

If you do plan on doing da`wah (I hope so), you should know how to make da`wah. Allah says:

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way; I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah; Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge” (Yusuf 12:108)

Allah also says:

Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the divine revelation and the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided. (An-Nahl 16:125)

The Muslims must follow the example and guidance of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and call others to Islam, bearing insults and harm with patience for the sake of Allah, as their Messenger (peace be upon him) did. Allah (exalted be He) says,

Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33:21)



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